HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — It’s not quite last year’s pace, but the ultimate prize is still well within reach.
The Point Pleasant wrestling team is a mere 4.5 points short of last year’s record-setting performance through two sessions of work at the 2021 WVSSAC Class AA-A Championships held Wednesday at Mountain Health Arena in Cabell County.
The Big Blacks — who had 120 points and a 26-5 mark through Session 2 a year ago — are firmly in control of their 3-peat quest as the Red and Black have 115.5 points and a 55.5-point lead over the rest of the state field.
PPHS — which posted a perfect 14-0 record in the opening round for a second straight postseason — ended Day 1 with a 25-8 overall mark that includes 19 pinfall wins, a technical fall and a major decision. All but three of Point’s 14 state qualifiers are still competing headed into Day 2.
Point Pleasant also has nine grapplers still competing in the championship bracket of their respective divisions. Those nine wrestlers will compete in semifinal matches in Session 3 on Thursday morning, with the winners advancing to Thursday evening’s state championship rounds.
Seniors Parker Henderson (113), Isaac Short (126), Chris Smith (132), Mitchell Freeman (152), Wyatt Wilson (170) and Nick Ball (285) are all 2-0 through two sessions of work, as are juniors Mackandle Freeman (138), Derek Raike (145) and Justin Bartee (160).
Those nine grapplers are still alive in their respective quests for individual state championships, but each will need a win in Session 3 on Thursday to secure a spot in the final later that night.
PPHS tied a Class AA-A state record last winter by claiming six individual championships at the state meet. Henderson, Short, Raike, Bartee and Mitchell Freeman are all vying for repeat titles, while Smith, Wilson, Ball and Mackandle Freeman are gunning for firsts.
Junior Brayden Connolly (195) and freshman Nathan Wood (106) account for Point’s remaining two chances at podium finishes as both are 2-1 overall and a win away from guaranteeing spots in the top six of their respective divisions. Both are in the consolation bracket after falling in the quarterfinals of the championship rounds Wednesday night.
Freshman Conner Blessing (120), junior Zander Watson (182) and junior Colby Price (220) all notched their first wins at the state level, but all three ultimately went 1-2 overall and were eliminated from the tournament.
Fairmont Senior has been the first team behind PPHS in the standing after each of the first two sessions. The Big Blacks had 52.5 points through the opening round, while FSHS had 28 points. The Polar Bears currently have 60 points at the midway point of the tournament.
Wirt County — which is eighth overall — currently leads the Class A portion of the field with 30 points, while St. Marys is second (11th overall) out of the small schools with 27.5 points.
Wahama had its season come to an end, but not before scoring at least one point at the state level for the 12th time in the last 14 tournaments.
Sophomore Kase Stewart went 1-2 overall for the second straight year at the state tournament, and that 8-3 win in the first consolation round allowed the White Falcons to become one of 49 teams to get on the scoreboard out of the 56 schools represented.
Senior Gavin Stiltner dropped both of his matches at 170 pounds, wrapping up his only state tournament appearance.
Wahama missed putting a wrestler on the podium for the sixth time in seven postseasons.
Visit wvmat.com for complete results of the Class AA-A state championships held Wednesday at Mountain Health Arena.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.